Community connections helping dear friends stay connected
Meet Lucille Vaughan and Rachel Armitage whose close friendship is flourishing thanks to new-found independence following a move of home set up by social care teams from Oxfordshire County Council and partner organisations.
Lucille, 38 years old, is an Oxfordshire lady through and through. Family is very important to her and she’s very close to her mum, who still lives in the county. She’s a very sociable, bubbly character with an extremely positive outlook and is happiest when she is busy at her various clubs and groups, bingo at the local hall or simply spending time with her friends.
Rachel, who is 54, moved from the south of England to Oxfordshire when she was 18 owing to her father’s work at Oxford University. She had previously completed a course about animals and horticultural at a college in Yeovil, loves watch the news and is very skilled in arts and crafts.
The council’s community connections team have helped support Lucille and Rachel as they embarked on a move to their new homes at Mayott House in Abingdon. Community Connections is a part of the wider wellbeing and employment support provision offered by Oxfordshire County Council's Adult Social Care service, for people aged over 18 with additional needs.
They work with people with a learning disability, to enable them to take part in their communities more independently.
Both Lucille and Rachel had been previously residing at Milton Heights residential care home, which is set for closure. They had both made it evident from the beginning that they wanted to live together somewhere that could allow them the independence they sought and the chance to allow their long-lasting friendship to flourish.
Their social worker Lisa Onishi from Oxfordshire County Council’s community connections team said: “I was asked to assess both Lucille and Rachel and with the support of brokerage and sourcing find alternative accommodation.
“Rachel was reluctant to leave her current home where she had been very happy for over 30 years, however she understood the service was closing. One of the most important aspects for Rachel was that a move should include her ability to get to her work at MacDonald’s in Didcot 2 days a week.
“Working with both, they obviously didn’t want to move apart as they had been friends for over 10 years. They also wanted to maintain and grow their independence, so we needed to ensure that accommodation offered them all this.
Mayott House: a perfect match
Mayott House was soon recognised as an option. It had the support they both needed to lead the independent lives they want to lead, and most importantly, it had vacancies. Unfortunately, however, it appeared like the untimely arrival of Covid-19 was going to throw a spanner in the works.
Lisa continued: “No sooner had the application’s been made and initial discussions had we were met with Covid-19 restrictions. How then do we go forward for these two people? For the first three weeks of restrictions, no one was able to leave their homes or visit another. Social workers were now working from home where they could”
Technology helps us to keep in touch during these times
However, Lisa was able to carry out assessments using Microsoft Teams, allowing for Lucille and Rachel to be involved in the entire process. She even sent them photographs of the flats and communal areas and kept up to date with activities that would go on normally in-house in place of a visit.
it was obvious that to get things moving, the team needed to think outside the box, “we were able to arrange a visit with the ladies with the help of an occupational therapist” said Lisa. “They’d come on board earlier in the process and had met one of the ladies before lockdown and were able to order the equipment we needed to prepare the flats.
“The occupational therapist was even able to arrange a visit to the property so they could finally see their new homes before they got to move in, which was a lovely bonus for them.
“Tech also came in handy when it came to sorting out the administrative side of things. Both could sign their tenancies virtually, with our support, and could make some online purchases for all those important things like furniture until a time when they can get to the shops.”
Teamwork conquers all!
It’s been a difficult time for social workers and those who receive care and support as they learn to adapt to how they must communicate with each other. But it’s thanks to the resilience of everyone involved, and the willingness to adapt to the circumstances allowed Lucille and Rachel to get what they wanted.
Lisa continued: “their families have told me how happy they are in their new digs. It was a very challenging time, but thanks to teamwork between both us as professionals, and the wider organisations, Lucille and Rachel were able to move in very much stress-free.
“They’re both loving spending time in the garden enjoying their surroundings together and getting to know their new neighbours.
“Lucille is very sociable, and it was important that a move provided her with the opportunity to meet new people but maintain her friendships and attend her social groups that are such a big part of her life.
“I spoke to Lucille following her move to see how she was doing. She exclaimed ‘its wonderful’ and went on to say that she loves her new home because she ‘can get up when I like, eat what I like and do what I like’.
“We spoke of her mum visiting and Lucille explained that she hasn’t been able to visit due to the virus but has managed to visit recently but said ‘mum loves my flat’.
“On moving her mum said she found it easier to visit Lucille as she is able to take the bus and get off outside the property whereas previously she was reliant on friends being able to take her to visit Lucille, now she can go whenever she wants”